Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Kandinsky Mystery

I have just discovered that the Top 5 Artists with UK buyers on the massive AllPosters website are as follows: 1. Klimt. 2. Kandinsky. 3. Warhol. 4. Dali. 5. Van Gogh.
It's a predictably depressing list, but the surprise is Kandinsky - at number 2!?! Popular in restaurants, I know, but you don't often see old Wassily on people's walls,do you? And you're unlikely to find that room full of Kandinskys at the Courtauld thronged with fans. Odd...


  1. Van Gogh the only one there of real first class substance & power, though the ubiquity of his presence might have made us somewhat innoculated against this. Klimt a superb but decadent fantasist(WW1's going on- what are you painting Gustav?), Kandinsky wishy washy, Warhol a nothing, Dali a psychic flasher or painter of a kind of rubbery Freudian Disneyland(a bit unfair but not overly).
    I suppose Kandinsky, despite the mystical assertions, is pleasantly bland & inoffensive; a no-risk & easy choice which suggests the possessor's easy unselfconscious sophistication.

  2. But Dali was a far better painter and draughtsman than Van Gogh (not that it really matters).

  3. Interesting how the 'ubiquity of presence' can as Andrew says innoculate us against art. i remember having various Van Gogh prints when i was a lowly student and never really even looking at them. Finally one day i found myself staring at Sunflowers and found it hard to 'get out' of the picture again. Strange to think how many people probably have it as 'decor' and are never arrested by it, never really 'see' it.

  4. Your comment, Elberry, brings to mind all those people you see in museums with headsets on. Paintings are meant to be looked at, not merely seen (or worse, heard about). The best way to learn about art - and once upon a time I was a gallery director - is to really ponder a painting that you like (or don't) and try to figure out why (or why not not) on the basis of what you observe there.

  5. My 'falling into' Sunflowers came about when i was puzzled by the disparity between the wildly vivid flowers and the crudely-drawn vase. The flowers are the more vivid because held in that clumsy vase; the blocky, child-like lines of the vase accentuate the madness & colour of the flowers, they seem to come not just from a different painting but a different reality.

    Problem is most education is about giving students pre-prepared reactions for use in exams. The innocence of encounter isn't possible - there's this veneer of explanation, theory, bullshit. But i think a painting like Sunflowers, or, say, Blake's poem of that name, could burn away the veneer if one was simply still long enough, attentive, undistracted by essay deadlines and official guides.